"73rd Tour of Austria" - (Bike Race around Austria)

5th + 6th July 2024 in JO-St. Johann in Salzburg

St. Johann is a stage finish and start for the 14th time this year. After the years 1955, 1967, 1969, 1997-2000, 2011-2014, 2017 and 2023, we as the organisers have already have a certain routine in organising this, measured by the total number of spectators, largest sporting event in Austria. With over 250,000 LIVE spectators along the entire route and in the stage towns, no Ski World Cup, Formula 1 or Motor GP competition can "keep up".

So how do you become s venue for a stage in this cycling race? First of all, the budget is drawn up for such a major event. In St. Johann in Salzburg, the local ski lift company "Snow Space Salzburg Bergbahnen AG" and the municipality of St. Johann together with the Tourist Board work together to organise the event in terms of money and personnel. Of course, the state of Salzburg also supports this supra-regional sporting event with funds from the tourism sector. Once this hurdle has been "overcome", there’s a lot of preparation work in store for the local organisation team. It wouldn't be possible without volunteers who donate their time and labour free of charge and are committed to the cause of cycling.

The local OC, i.e. the organising committee, is managed in a very "lean" way and the "department heads" then report back to their committees. For now, however, we’ll describe the sporting event itself. For non-cyclist readers it might be a bit confusing 😊.

The "Tour of Austria 2024" will be run in the UCI 2.1 category (incl. prologue 6 daily stages). This allows a starting field with all three "professional categories": World Tour Teams, Pro Teams and Continental Teams. The starting field will comprise 20 teams of 7 riders each. For comparison: the only three 3-week national tours (Giro d'Italia, Tour de France and the Tour of Spain) are only open to World Tour teams. Pro cycling teams have an average of 25-30 athletes under contract, who are used individually in races. The line-up for the races again depends on the length, altitude metres, previous season to date, training status, etc. For this reason, pro teams that are racing at the same time competing in the Tour de France at the same time as the ToA also enter teams. Furthermore, only the 3 "big" national tours are allowed to run over 3 weeks (2 rest days). At this year's ToA, 4-6 teams of the highest category will certainly be at the start with their riders. Nevertheless, the Austrian "Continental" teams at the start will also try to annoy the "big ones", to challenge them, to ride ahead........

Now back to the organisation of a stage finish or start. The route itself is decided by the tour organisation in consultation with local insiders. The stages usually have a length between 150 and 220 kilometres. These day tours are peppered with numerous metres in altitude. Our stage is 154 km (start in Schladming) with approx. 3,000 metres in altitude to Alpendorf. At an average speed of 42 km/h, the cyclists "only" need around 3.5 hours. The stage is of course secured by the police and local barriers. There will be a few "complete road closures" or stops along the route. Please understand that on this one day we give priority to the cyclists.

The organisers have to organise the entire set-up of the finish area, including the finish facility, the team vehicles, facilities for the VIP Club, award ceremony, exhibition area, etc. Plus a total of approx. 350 rooms in TOP hotels must be booked. The accommodation is reserved for the teams and the entire Tour entourage. The focus is on short distances and the best quality. We often receive praiseworthy feedback from the teams that St. Johann is "way ahead" of the Giro or the Tour de France when it comes to the quality of accommodation.

The hotels where teams are accommodated also have to do their "homework". They must accommodate team buses and vehicles, provide washing facilities for sports equipment, etc., prepare rooms for massages, adhere to the specified meal plan, stock up on ice to cool drinks, and much more. In terms of nutrition, there are no special things to consider. The nutrition is predetermined for the athletes and some teams have their own kitchen team with them. Incidentally, as mentioned, a cycling team consists of 7 athletes plus physios, technicians, team manager and sports director - a total of approx. 18-20 people - and everyone has their job to do.

A unique event in St. Johann is the VIP reception held on the evening of the event day in the Oberforsthofalm, where local personalities from the worlds of business and politics, active and former top athletes from other disciplines (Mirjam and Joachim Puchner - Alpine skiing, Andi Prommegger - snowboarding, Adam Kappacher – ski cross, Andi Goldberger - ski jumping, Rene Haselbacher and Paco Wrolich - former road cyclists and many more). This evening is for networking and is always a nice way to end the day.

The dismantling of the finish line has long been completed by this time and the necessary team is already on its way to the next stage location (this time Kals am Grossglockner). The set-up of the start area is again done by another brigade and also begins the evening before. The start itself is quite unspectacular and begins with the registration of all teams (all athletes must sign the start sheet) in the start area. The road safety team gets into position and the start is neutralised, i.e. the race is only released from a certain point in time or section of the route by the tour director by means of waving a flag. In our case, the athletes from Alpendorf ride first through the urban area of St. Johann im Pongau, take the northern exit (former KIKA) onto the B311 and from the McDonald’s restaurant (colloquially known as the Golden Arches Restaurant) we head towards the Grossglockner and East Tyrol at racing speed.


As in all previous years, we hope for an accident-free event and, if possible better weather.
Are you a keen cyclist yourself? St. Johann also has great gentle bike tours on offer – come and see for yourself when St. Johann becomes a cycling stronghold.

photo credits: Snow Space Salzburg_Maria Unterrainer